Tattered Jeans

Saving orphaned animals: Wildlife Center of Texas' dedicated volunteers do it all — with a smile

Saving orphaned animals: Wildlife Center of Texas volunteers do it all

6. Eastern Screech Owl and volunteer, Christina Spade Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
An Eastern screech owl and volunteer Christina Spade. Photo by Katie Oxford
3. Red-eared Slider and volunteer, Urie Zavala Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
A red-eared slider and volunteer Urie Zavala. Photo by Katie Oxford
10. L to R - Patricia Mercer, President of the Houston SPCA, her adopted Australian Shepherd “Joey” and Sharon Schmalz, Executive Director of The Wildlife Center of Texas Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
From left, Patricia Mercer, president of the Houston SPCA, her adopted Australian Shepherd “Joey” and Sharon Schmalz, executive director of The Wildlife Center of Texas. Photo by Katie Oxford
5. Virginia Opossum - blind in one eye Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
A Virginia opossum that's blind in one eye. Photo by Katie Oxford
2. Claire Schoene, an engineer and volunteer at the WCT Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014.
Claire Schoene, an engineer and volunteer at the WCT. Photo by Katie Oxford
4. White-tailed hawk that was brought to the WCT because it had been electrocuted. Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
A white-tailed hawk that was brought to the WCT because it had been electrocuted. Photo by Katie Oxford
1. L to R - Lindy Pollard and Don Kelly of The WCT Rescues Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
Lindy Pollard and Don Kelly of The WCT Rescues. Photo by Katie Oxford
9. Muscovy Ducklings that will eventually be returned to the wild.Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
Muscovy ducklings that will eventually be returned to the wild. Photo by Katie Oxford
8. L to R - J. Jill Heatley, DVM and Jordan Gentry, DVM in the WCT surgery room. (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine) Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
Veterinarians J. Jill Heatle and Jordan Gentry in the WCT surgery room. Photo by Katie Oxford
7. Eastern Screech Owl - Education Ambassador Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
The "Education Ambassador," an Eastern screech owl. Photo by Katie Oxford
6. Eastern Screech Owl and volunteer, Christina Spade Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
3. Red-eared Slider and volunteer, Urie Zavala Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
10. L to R - Patricia Mercer, President of the Houston SPCA, her adopted Australian Shepherd “Joey” and Sharon Schmalz, Executive Director of The Wildlife Center of Texas Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
5. Virginia Opossum - blind in one eye Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
2. Claire Schoene, an engineer and volunteer at the WCT Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014.
4. White-tailed hawk that was brought to the WCT because it had been electrocuted. Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
1. L to R - Lindy Pollard and Don Kelly of The WCT Rescues Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
9. Muscovy Ducklings that will eventually be returned to the wild.Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
8. L to R - J. Jill Heatley, DVM and Jordan Gentry, DVM in the WCT surgery room. (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine) Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014
7. Eastern Screech Owl - Education Ambassador Katie Oxford Wildlife Center of Texas December 2014

Saturday was overcast and grey, but inside The Wildlife Center of Texas, it was anything but.

The Wildlife Center of Texas (WCT) was hosting its Annual Open House Fundraiser celebrating its eighth anniversary. There was great live music thanks to The WCT Rescues, plenty of refreshments and a silent auction with some really cool stuff.

But, the biggest hit was the animals. Most of those featured are what they call “Education Ambassadors.” These are animals that for various reasons would not be able to survive if released back into the wild.   

First, here’s some info about this gem of a place that you may find interesting — if not surprising — from their Fall, 2014 Newsletter. Very informative.

The WCT is a non-profit, donor-supported organization that provides emergency medical care for injured, ill, orphaned and oiled native wildlife, and never refuses an animal in need. Never refuses is pretty amazing. The center is 100 percent donation supported. They receive no city, state, or federal funds to care for native wildlife. Also amazing. 

 “There aren’t any deadlines. Your goal for the day is just doing what the animals need.”  

In 2013, Texas A&M and the Houston SPCA launched the nation’s largest Animal Welfare-Shelter Medicine Program, requiring all fourth year vet students at Texas A&M to complete a rotation in wildlife medicine at The Wildlife Center of Texas. Through this program, the WCT hopes to educate a new generation of veterinary students that have been exposed to wildlife ethics and veterinary techniques. 

The center maintains a team of qualified staff, volunteers and veterinarians who are trained to respond to oiled wildlife in the event of an oil spill. Every year, members of this team hold oiled wildlife response workshops in order to keep volunteers, industry professionals, veterinarians and others familiar with protocols, procedures and safety concerns involved during an oil spill response. Two of these workshops will be held in Houston next spring. 

In addition to raising money, the Annual Open House allows the public a rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at the wildlife center. This year, folks from ages five to 90, maybe older, enjoyed a self-guided tour through 12 stations where volunteers and experts explained interesting facts about the animals they care for. 

I found listening to the volunteers almost as enthralling as observing the animals. 

Claire Schoene, an engineer, has been a volunteer at the WCT for two years. “It’s special,” she said, sorta quiet like. “There aren’t any deadlines. Your goal for the day is just doing what the animals need.”  Meaning, cleaning and feeding. “It’s just a different perspective from the corporate world.”

 Near the White-tailed hawk, a volunteer stood smiling. Looking peaceful. Pleased. 

Urie Zavala, a volunteer at the Turtle Care Area, explained that the Red-eared Slider was run over by a car. Amazingly, soon, she’ll be released into the wild. “When the glue’s completely hardened,” Urie explained.     

Near the White-tailed hawk, a volunteer stood smiling. Looking peaceful. Pleased. I took a photog of the hawk and on my way out thanked her for caring. “We really enjoy working here,” she said. Still smiling. “It’s a little addictive.” Getting close to the White-tailed hawk, I understood why. After meeting him, I felt strange gain.

At Station #10, Suzanne Greene was watching over her favorite ambassador, a Virginia Opossum. “We use a toothbrush to clean her tail because it’s so scaly,” she explained. Good idea — for myself I thought. 

My favorite quote came in two words, from a volunteer at Station #7 — the Fledgling room for Song Birds.   

“Nobody stays,” he said.